Fetishizing Yoga IV

“Imagine the reaction of ‘the West’ or of ‘Western discourse’ should an Indian (or an Arab) write an ethnology of the West according to other categories, their different way of looking at things.
Ram Swaroop, in India in the 60’s, wrote and published a book on the History of Christianity from a ‘Hindu’ point of view. It was promptly banned, and all known copies were burned. Even in his own country, he didn’t have a chance against the might of Western discourse.
Whether praising India or denigrating her, whether enamoured of her charms and wisdom, or repulsed, just about everyone in the West, and many in India as well who are informed by Western discourse, unquestionably accept the authority of the West to represent India: frame the questions, lay out the categories, methodologies of epistemology and interpretation, and strip the Indian of the authority to represent himself.
I find very few people in the New Age, Yoga, and Spiritual movements questioning the very foundations of their ideologies and beliefs, and although enchanted by Indian culture, are no different in their structure of thinking about these things, meaning, using the same discourse as the people who give us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to come to their New Age conclusions.” – Baba Rampuri
The conversation on May 29, 2015:

Fetishizing Yoga:

Pankaj Seth Here is an interview with Sita Ram Goel, one of Ram Swaroop’s colleagues, whose books have also been banned in India… “The term “Polytheism’ comes from Biblical discourse, which has the term ‘theism’ as its starting point. I have no use for these ter…

I am a Hindu, which to me means the inheritor…


Baba Rampuri Sita Ram Goel was a charming and very educated/cultured man, who often had quite an eclectic group around him in Delhi, and despite what some people say, kept a distance from partisan politics. I very much enjoyed knowing him and Ram Swarup, who also had lively conversations going on at his house in Kashmiri Gate, in the 80’s & 90’s. Sita Ram Goel had a publishing house, Voice of India, in Darya Ganj, and published, by the way, Koenrad Elst’s books. It was through Sita Ram Goel that I came to know of Elst’s writing.

Pankaj Seth Wish I would’ve met them. I feel close to their thinking, and hope to continue their line of inquiry and work, especially breaking down the Western contextualization of the Dharma, whilst using Western instruments as much as possible… a kind of Aikido.

Baba Rampuri Both of them were Marxists in the 40’s, so their social and historical analyses encompass a lot of intellectual space. Because of the very nature of “Western instruments” I don’t know if your Aikido is possible, or even desirable. Another intellectual in the circle at the time, Jay Dubashi, would comment, “With 1000’s of years of intellectual culture behind us, why is it that we must choose from two failed systems, capitalism and communism.” I think a resurgence of culture can use its own instruments.

Pankaj Seth Yes, I read that Ram Swarup turned away from Marxism and helped Goel do the same. What I mean by Aikido is the placement of several Sanskrit terms into common English usage, over time… so far, there is Yoga, but then Dharma, and then Gyana/Vigyana (already there as Gnosis/Diagnosis), Jnana/Vijnana and Namarupa… just those words. But yes, Indians do not need to choose between Marxism and Capitalism, we have Dharma!

Eric Seaton Yea like Burger King, “Have it your Way”.. Meaning, have it polluted and laid out squarely for me? With the billions of acres available for the US, how was they had to kill all the Indians to make room ?

Baba Rampuri I don’t like interfering with languages. Often when you insert foreign words they have virus like effects, which influence things way beyond the sentence in which they are inserted. An example is the insertion of words like religion and God into Indian speaking, which have made continual virus like attacks on words like dharma. I think it best not to play that game as there are always much stronger players.

Pankaj Seth But in this case, English does not have the distinctions of modes of knowledge (vijnana/jnana) and subject/object unity so it skews understanding. We are in a globalized era, and I think exchanges will happen. But while God and religion skew things, what I am suggesting actually cause a correction imo. Its also possible to not insert sanskrit but take from the sanskrit terms their meanings and employ english to reflect that. Physics leads the way in that in the West, but has trouble being understood because of the lack of english words to reflect what has been found in QM.

Eric Seaton I just finished an incredible book, Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall. It’s the Oral Tradition of the Lakota, explaininng in their view the story of Crazy Horse and the Lakota. He sit use any scholars work or western assumptions and categories, thus the story is incredibly valuable to feeling their culture’s spirit without sanitization.

Pankaj Seth Neils Bohr led the way in the West in trying to convey in common language what had been found… this wikiquote page of his gives a sample. Heisenberg too, his wikiquote page gives good examples too. Heisenberg’s book “Physics and Philosophy is monumentally good… http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Niels_Bohr—https://archive.org/details/PhysicsPhilosophy

Niels Bohr – Wikiquote

Niels Henrik David Bohr (7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist. He…


Eric Seaton Crazy Horse was a Thunder Dreamer, the son of a medicine man. He was a man killer and a Heyoka, a Sacred Clown. He painted lightning on his horse and wore a pebble in his left ear that made him bullet proof.

Baba Rampuri What I am hearing from you, Pankaj, is “give science a chance.” And that human sciences “can be” natural sciences.

Pankaj Seth Vigyana is always potentially dangerous. But its foundations as found in the West, in physics lead towards Gyana.

strong>Baba Rampuri Neils Bohr had a horseshoe hanging above the entrance to his house. One day, a colleague, another physicist, visited him and questioned him about the horseshoe. “How can a man of science, like you, be so superstitious?” Bohr answered him, “They say that whether you believe in it or not, it works.”

Baba Rampuri Vijnana and Science are two VERY different things.

Pankaj Seth People don’t realize that there are no atoms, and that this concept when used makes one also have to say that these atoms are interconnected (in time and space), (via subject and object unity) and more. Basically, wholeness when pushed into atomization does not work, but people think that atoms actually have been found (this stuff is in my film, presented in a simple way, along with Tagore’s help!).

Eric Seaton Science , to me is basically two things. One is its aesthetic, the other it’s opinion. If it was just aesthetic, it wouldn’t be half as bad, but opinion dictates it’s style, and then turns around and says its style isn’t opinionated.

Pankaj Seth Not vijnana but vigyana.

Pankaj Seth Modi called the ISRO scientists ‘vigyaniks’ in his speech.

Baba Rampuri What’s the difference?

Baba Rampuri He’s using that as a metaphor.

Eric Seaton Like we’re unbiased by testing Poison on rats in a lab, were measuring its effects , this is science , unbiased. Are you kidding ? Your importing an entire historical and political narrative.

Pankaj Seth Because it fits. Vigyana is the knowledge obtained, while vijnana is the mode of knowing, vi-jnana (divided knowing, as/in subject-object distinction/structure).

Eric Seaton Hey Pankaj did you know all of the US preidents can trace all their bloodlines back to one King of England ? Yea there all cousins in the same family. Think science from the European enlightenment isn’t biased to an empire ?

Pankaj Seth Babaji, I’ve nailed this one. I’ve tried it out in debate with physicists and it works.

Pankaj Seth Eric Seaton, except Obama. But yes, this stuff goes back to blue blood money lines.

Eric Seaton Haha nope Obama is in the family. Same amount of presidential cousins as Reagan

Baba Rampuri I don’t understand your Sanskrit grammar/interpretation there. I’m not a scholar, but I just don’t see it. What is this “vig” stuff. We’re working with jna, not gya. This is the problem, Pankaj, when you try to do this stuff in English. Best is to learn the Sanskrit first.

Eric Seaton Baba yogi mythology, is there a type of yogi who resembles the Lakota Heyoka? They say the Heyoka does many things backwards, he can those weeping laugh, the sacred clown.

Pankaj Seth gyana exists as a word and so does vi-gyana, just like gnosis and dia-gnosis.

Baba Rampuri “gyana” exists in English transliteration only, not, for example, when written in Devanagari.

Pankaj Seth jnana is satyam and anantam. vi-jnana is part of the skandhas as Buddha tells, refers to eye consciusness, ear consciousness etc, but not to big C consciousness (that is Jnana).

Pankaj Seth Does not the vi speak of division, bifurcation?

Baba Rampuri You are changing your spelling, thank you. But really, Pankaj, you are speculating with no formal basis in the language itself.

Pankaj Seth I’ve given examples of usage from Buddha for example

Pankaj Seth Buddha distinguishes between jnana (nana) and vijnana (vinana)

Baba Rampuri It does, but you are reducing things beyond informed discussion, and you are not addressing the most important issue of context, about which has been voluminously commented about in Indian tradition.

Baba Rampuri You are making interpretations of ideology rather than what the tradition focuses on in grammar, syntax, and traditional hermeneutics.

Pankaj Seth Please educate me. I see so far that vi refers to division as I see Buddha’s usage and connect it to the subject-object language.

Baba Rampuri “vi” does relate to division, but it’s more nuanced than that. You can’t be making conclusions of what sophisticated thinkers composed many years ago on the basis only of “vi” usually indicating division. It’s much more involved than that.

Pankaj Seth The tradition allows for debate.What people did before has been added to. I would defend it in debate within my overall thesis, win or lose.

Pankaj Seth There is a tradition of commentary, and it should also continue today.

Baba Rampuri The tradition allows for debate among qualified people. If unqualified, this would be compensated for by the advance payment of a large dakshina.

Pankaj Seth I am learning many things from you Babaji, and now this. I would defend my usage in an overall thesis under those conditions.

Baba Rampuri Commentary is also performed by “qualified” people, not just anyone, qualified within the tradition in which one is making commentary.

Pankaj Seth Debate is about convincing. I think I can convince people that this is a very useful way of looking at those words.

Baba Rampuri Kathleen,it’s only the prefix “vi” we are referring to that indicates division.

Baba Rampuri Pankaj, you can’t lump all these various traditions together, in the same way you can’t combine science & oral tradition, they are all based on a different set of presumptions and assumptions.

Pankaj Seth The Western convention is to divide my cultural heritage into various “isms”… I reject that.

Baba Rampuri And rightly so.

Eric Seaton Pankaj maybe drop a little acid and you’ll feel the context haha

Pankaj Seth Did that once. meditation is better. LOL

“commentary” and “literary or textual criticism” are very different things

Baba Rampuri Remember, “commentary” and “literary or textual criticism” are very different things, also based on different sets of assumptions, a different framing of the text, and coming (usually) to different conclusions. We must make a clear distinction between the two.

Pankaj Seth I remember reading in the Charaka Samhita where debate is taught that one must distinguish between various venues, types of opponents and the type of audience. Surely there is some combination of the above where I am allowed to try to convince.

Pankaj Seth I admit that I am ignorant of conventions, but maybe that has worked to my advantage as I only reference trying to convince.

Baba Rampuri You also have the “freedom” to star in a Broadway musical. But you have to convince people to allow you your claim to space on that stage.

Pankaj Seth At this time in history, where anyone and everyone publishes a book, makes a film, I would not be asking for a novelty.

Pankaj Seth If we can speak of one’s rights in the context of Svabhava, then I am Mars and Rahu and could demand novelty, if it comes to that.

Baba Rampuri “One’s rights” !!! This is modern convention. A great thing, but lets understand it’s place in the greater scheme of things. Novelty = Fetish.

Baba Rampuri Triumph of the Individual! Birth of the Consumer.

Pankaj Seth Everytime something is done for the first time it is ‘novelty’. Many times though, it is found to be valuable and sticks around. Everything done was once done for the first time. If novelty is not allowed, then nothing could exist.

Pankaj Seth Therefore, the measure ought not to be novelty, but value.

Baba Rampuri Novelty because it’s novelty. We’re in an age in which we have fetishized novelty. Just look at the academy.

Baba Rampuri Yes, thank you.

Pankaj Seth Yes, the academy… many things come to mind, like psychoanalytic approaches whereas psychoanalysis has been debunked for the most part. Then there is Positivism, which cannot account for itself, according to its own rules.

Pankaj Seth Babaji, it doesn’t sound right that you should say ‘thank you’ here. Only I should be saying that to you for all that you have done and are doing. Stated sincerely.

Baba Rampuri With love and light.

Scott Marmorstein Wow…reading (nearly) all of this thread is like…Facebook Pizza Yoga. I scarcely recall the origin of this thread…an article…yes, an article, no matter what you label it, is just Article. Wait, no, that’s Yoga. ooh…no, no, it’s Reality. But putting laughs aside gently, I do somewhat fret that all this worthy conversation will never reach the masses in a way that penetrates through the haze of apathy and general disinterest. I think this is some of the angst mentioned by Baba Rampuri earlier on in the thread. How would blessings (in this case, the blessings guised as insights and sophisticated thought which are illumining) be brought, I wonder, to a world of people who are bombarded by too many shouting voices? Indeed it is no moral issue at all, be blessed or be damned—whichever is of little relevance.

BUT…I remember Babaji explaining that one of the dharmas of the Naga Babas (as an example) was to bring stories and blessings to the local communities. When the local communities are getting their Maharbart on cable television, they don’t have the time to listen to the much more interesting and lively (locative even) tales that bring about the blessings from the babas themselves. A television as medium (or Facebook/Web/Internet) for that matter, doesn’t really “cut the mustard”. Now this leads me to think of the story of one of the goddesses who had to come down and thwart the demons who interrupted the prayers of holy men and the gods also—since no prayers were reaching God it was a problem. And no man or god could defeat these demons. Only the goddess could.

I don’t meant to sound off track here. I see this conversation as subtly underlining this very point. That for all our efforts to bring awareness to the issues at hand to anyone beyond this highly qualified gathering in this thread, the demons of apathy and distraction are powerfully at work, interfering with the whole idea of bringing these very ideas into the light for all to see—and make of whatever they will anyway, I suppose. But, what do I know? I’m just a guy who works at a grocery store. heart emoticon wink emoticon

Kaushiki Ma And the other problem is, as wonderful as this discussion is and worthwhile to talk about, it is only talk and talk in a place where only talk is possible. It is all in the head. What is important is practice and that cannot be done on Facebook. Like you, I am not an academic at all, just a woman of modest accomplishment. Certainly not a Goddess.

Ekabhumi Charles Ellik Jaya Ma!

Michelle Synnestvedt Douglas Brooks you may dig this…

Jan Baggerud Larsen Thank you all for this excellent thread. This must be my all time favorite thread since i joined FB in 2007.

Pankaj Seth Here are two comments which got deleted from Christopher Wallis’ posting about his dissertation summary, and which I think fit here…. Pankaj Seth:I hear an echo… ‘The one and only way of making the study and practice of YOGA respectable is to distance it as far as possible from “Hinduism”’. The term “Yoga Tradition” is now being used by Yoga Journal to forward the marketing of “Goddess Yoga” and the term Hindu/Hinduism is not in sight. Here is the link to this story, where I did speak up about this and got a favourable response from the person whose workshops were being marketed. It is the case that Yoga Journal has told the Hindu American Foundation that the term ‘Hinduism’ has “baggage” and so they do not like to use it. https://www.facebook.com/yogajournal/posts/10152742105165946

I found the following on another FB thread and it is written by a Massimo Barbeiri: “Michael Witzel, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and the editor of the Harvard Oriental Series has severely criticised the “Indigenous Aryans” position:

The ‘revisionist project’ certainly is not guided by the principles of critical theory but takes, time and again, recourse to pre-enlightenment beliefs in the authority of traditional religious texts such as the Purånas. In the end, it belongs, as has been pointed out earlier, to a different ‘discourse’ than that of historical and critical scholarship. In other words, it continues the writing of religious literature, under a contemporary, outwardly ‘scientific’ guise […] The revisionist and autochthonous project, then, should not be regarded as scholarly in the usual post-enlightenment sense of the word, but as an apologetic, ultimately religious undertaking aiming at proving the ‘truth’ of traditional texts and beliefs. Worse, it is, in many cases, not even scholastic scholarship at all but a political undertaking aiming at ‘rewriting’ history out of national pride or for the purpose of ‘nation building’.”—So, here we have the post-enlightenment position being forwarded by the academy, Witzel does not even realize/see/admit that this position is every bit as politicized as the one he is criticizing. The academy is basically forwarding Scientism in that historicity/history is just accepted as some absolute, whereas the Dharmic position is that historicity itself is of only limited use in terms of reaching self-knowledge. The is a battle of world views, where the academy is blind to its own assumptions and criticizes its opponents without reflecting on its own position.

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